Trump’s Coronavirus Response Praised by Evangelicals but Fails to Impress American Jews, Poll Finds

Survey of several religious groups reaffirms evangelical support for the president’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis, while Jewish Americans and others remain dissatisfied

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U.S. President Donald Trump, with Director, National Institutes of Health Dr. Francis Collins (L) and Response coordinator for White House Coronavirus Task Force Deborah Birx, May 15, 2020.
U.S. President Donald Trump, with Director, National Institutes of Health Dr. Francis Collins (L) and Response coordinator for White House Coronavirus Task Force Deborah Birx, May 15, 2020.Credit: MANDEL NGAN/AFP
Amir Tibon
Amir Tibon

WASHINGTON – American Jews are overwhelmingly unimpressed by President Donald Trump's handing of the coronavirus crisis, with almost two-thirds of them giving him a low rating for it according to a new poll released over the weekend by the Pew Research Center.

White evangelicals, meanwhile, gave Trump a higher approval rating than any other religious group in the United States. 

The poll examined how Americans from different religious groups view Trump’s handling of the pandemic and the economic crisis it has unleashed. The groups surveyed also include Catholics (divided into white and Hispanic subgroups); African American Protestants; white Protestants who are not evangelical; and Americans who are agnostic, atheist or don’t identify with any organized religion. 

Among white evangelicals – a core group of Trump’s political support base – the president enjoys large support even after more than 80,000 Americans have died and unemployment has reached unprecedented levels.

The poll shows that 75 percent of white evangelical respondents think Trump’s handling of the crisis has been either excellent or good. Only 24 percent of them think Trump has handled the crisis fairly or poorly. 

Demonstrators rally outside the Pennsylvania Capitol Building to protest the continued closure of businesses due to the coronavirus pandemic, May 15, 2020 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Credit: Mark Makela/Getty Images/AFP

While these numbers show that Trump can still rely on the evangelical demographic ahead of this year’s election, the trend captured by the poll should cause some concern in the president’s team: When Pew ran a similar survey back in March, 81 percent of evangelicals gave Trump a positive review for his handling of the crisis, and only 19 percent said he was handling it in a fair or poor way. In other words, within two months, evangelical satisfaction with Trump's coronavirus response has decreased by 5 percent. 

Evangelicals make up approximately a quarter of the voter population in the United States, and tend to overwhelmingly prefer Republican politicians. Approximately 80 percent of them voted for Trump in 2016, helping him secure victory in important swing states like Pennsylvania and Florida.

Some analysts believe that if Trump’s support within this group will go down even slightly from the 80 percent he received last time, that would seriously complicate his reelection prospects. 

The only two other groups surveyed in the poll that gave Trump positive ratings on his handling of the coronavirus crisis were white Protestants who are not evangelical (56 percent think he has done an excellent or good job); and white Catholics (55 percent). In both of these groups, however, the poll also shows a clear downward trend since March, when more than 60 percent of respondents in these groups had confidence in Trump’s handling of the crisis.

Among American Jews, there is no significant change since March: 66 percent thought back then that Trump was handling the crisis in a fair or poor way, and 65 percent thought the same in the latest poll. Only a third of Jewish respondents think Trump is handling the crisis in a good or excellent way. Trump received less than 30 percent of the Jewish vote in the 2016 election, and public opinion polls conducted in recent years show he is overall unpopular with the Jewish community. 

Among Hispanic Catholics and those who don’t identify with any religious group, 70 percent think Trump has done a fair or poor job. Among African American Protestants, the number of those who think the same rises to 80 percent; among agnostics and atheists, it is above 80 percent. These results also match voting trends as shown in exit polls conducted after the 2016 election. 

Overall, among all Americans who were surveyed for the poll, a majority of 59 percent think Trump has done a fair or poor job handling the crisis, while 41 percent think he has done a good or excellent job handling it. 

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